While we expected Apple to discuss the Mac Pro at WWDC 2019, we didn’t expect it would show the machine off. It did, and wow, is it a beast. But is it for you?
The spec list’s power is almost laughable. It’s got an Intel Xeon processor with up to 28-cores (and comes stock with 8-cores); 32GB base memory, which can be configured up to 1.5 terabytes; and an AMD Radeon Pro 580x, which can be upgraded to an AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duo (well, really four Radeon Pro Vega II Duos, because Apple allows you to bundle GPUs into modules). It is, in a word, insane.
Modules are Apple’s new thinking on extensibility, and to that end it’s created a Mac Pro Expansion Module, or MPX. Essentially, an MPX can host multiple GPUs in one proprietary housing that connects to the MPX via a standard PCI Express connector. “Then, for the first time in a graphics card, additional PCIe lanes were created to integrate Thunderbolt and provide increased capability,” writes Apple. The MPX has its own heat sink, which works “in concert” with the Mac Pro’s cooling system, which itself has three big fans.
The Mac Pro has eight PCI slots: four double-wide, three single-wide, and one half-slot pre-configured with an Apple-made I/O card that has Thunderbolt and USB connectivity.
With all that power, Apple’s claims about the platform’s abilities are through the proverbial roof. Maxed-out, it’s capable of up to 112.8 teraflops of half precision rendering, and 56.8 teraflops single precision.
The Mac Pro is aimed at one of Apple’s most distinguished and perturbed ‘pro’ audiences: video editors. Throughout its keynote, Apple noted how powerful the new Mac Pro is for video editing, which is hammered home by Afterburner, a new feature for the Mac Pro that allows video editors to work with 8K video natively without transcoding.
The accompanying Pro Display XDR also indicates this is for big-budget video editors. It’s a 32-inch display capable of 6K resolution and 1600 nits brightness. IT has a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, and can display over one billion colors accurately.
This is a ‘pro’ machine, but there’s just nothing about it that screams it’s for developers (or many other technology professionals, for that matter). Sure, some will buy it and be happy with it, but this tricked-out cheese grater is maybe too powerful for many developer and analytics workloads.
It’s also incredibly expensive. The Mac Pro starts at $5,999. The Pro XDR Display is $4,999 – and its stand is an extra $999 (yes, seriously). While both are impressive, consider that the base setup here is $12,000. We also have no idea what the top-end variant will cost, but we’re expecting a specced-out Mac Pro could run north of $30,000.
If you’re still interested, though, arrival is this Fall.